The Academy Awards – Who Should Win? 2016 Oscars

Predicting the Oscars has become a game of one or two major categories (this year Picture and Director surprisingly) and figuring out categories no one really knows (Live Action Short). You can find many “experts” to help with your Oscar pool.

Much more fun is to imagine if you had a voting ballot and select who you would vote for. Not who WILL win, but who SHOULD win.

Having seen all of the nominees for the awards below (except one), here are my choices if I could vote in the Oscars.

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Picture – Room was the best film of the year. I’ve heard it made people claustrophobic or uncomfortable or angry. I’ve heard it might not be better than the book. It was still the best picture of 2015.

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Best Films of 2015

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It always takes some time to feel ready to post the best movies of the year. While I get to the Oscar nominees pretty early, there are the dozens of fantastic smaller and ignored films that take some time (and are still coming to DVD or Streaming). There are many left on “to see” list of 2015.

 

This year saw some real entertainment from Hollywood and fewer of the super depressing films they’ve made in recent years. So with no apologies for getting it all wrong, here’s my Top 20 for 2015.

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Mini-Review and Premiere: The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

R, 168/187 Minutes, 2015

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I had a chance to go the NY Premiere of The Hateful Eight at the Ziegfeld Theatre. If you’ve never been to the Ziegfeld, it is an experience of epic moviegoing proportions.ziegfeld_v7_460x285.jpg

I have never been to a premiere before so this was lots of fun. The was tons of free popcorn, soda, and candy. We received souvenir tickets and a program booklet.IMG_0917.jpg

Before the movie began, Harvey Weinstein welcomed us and then introduced a very energetic Quentin Tarantino. Quentin gave a short speech and then invited up 7 of 8 of the “Hateful Eight” along with Channing Tatum. (Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t there).

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The movie began with applause for every name in the cast (they were sitting right there) and much of crew. The film had an overture and then later an intermission.

 

There’s a lot of waiting around at a premiere – getting there early to get a good seIMG_0924.jpgats, movie starting late – but it was all good fun. Michael Madsen came right next to my seat and was being encouraged to sit in the empty chairs next to me, but he declined (and I don’t think watched the movie). After the film, I ended up right behind Harvey Weinstein, but only got this picture (to the left).

But we’re here for the movie review…

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Mini-Review: Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

PG-13, 141 Minutes, 2015

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About: Lawyer must negotiate for trade of spies with USSR because once upon a time we let civilians do that. There is also a bridge.

Starring: Tom Hanks as Our Generation’s Gary Cooper/Jimmy Stewart

Directed: Steven Spielberg. I am a Spielberg-completist having seen all of his films. It’s been over 10 years since Spielberg made a “fun” film (Terminal to some extent, Catch Me If You Can for sure, The Adventures of Tintin wasn’t fun enough). He’s gotten so serious and self-important.

Bridgeof-Spies-777x437Best Thing About It: Mark Rylance as the Soviet Spy Col. Abel. His dry wit and non-conformist role makes him the most memorable and worthwhile thing in the film. I anticipate an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Worst Thing About It: The word I have heard most about this film is “Old-Fashioned.” That’s not a bad thing as the movie is very well made. But it lacks much in terms of surprise, energy, or freshness. It feels very lived in – An old sweater you like, but don’t love.

Notable Thing About It: If anyone other than Tom Hanks was in this part, I think the movie would have failed. He brings such charisma and gravitas to a role that before he’s said a word, you are rooting for his character and trust him.

Overall: Everything about the film is professional. There isn’t anything weak in it. It is certainly the right kind of film for people who prefer more predictable, historical movies. You certainly don’t have to go to the theaters to see it. It is a good film, but forgettable.

Rating: 2 1/2 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Finding True Love and Passion (According to the Movies)

Alone this Valentine’s Day? No worries. The movies have taught us that finding your true love and hot passionate sex is only moments away. Here are 14 guidelines to remember on this February 14th.

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  1. Can’t find your true love? Make sure you are immersed in the biggest professional crisis of your life. True love is sure to follow.
  2. If you find your true love, you can be certain he/she will be reciprocate instantly.
  3. But if you don’t fall in love at first sight, make sure you become enemies. Then you’ll fall in love. Hatred makes excellent foreplay.
  4. Even if the world is about to end or you are about to be assassinated or attacked by zombies or are currently in a dank cellar – sudden, unprotected sex is perfectly appropriate.
  5. While having that sudden, unprotected sex, you will be impervious to any outside harm. (The minute it’s over, things might change)
  6. Make sure that your first time involves as much ripping of clothing and knocking over of furniture as possible. If you can have sex without foreplay on a stove or in back of a car or on a nature trail or in that dank cellar or anywhere uncomfortable, all the better.
  7. Magically, after ripping off each other’s clothing before sex, you will be modestly dressed by the time it is over.
  8. Remember that person you met just hours ago, were enemies, and had sex in a cellar before the zombie attack? He/she’s your true love forever. Unless her death makes a better plot point. Or if you refuse to be in the sequel, then you are a goner.
  9. Coy, playful, platonic relationships are best stretched out over many years with no follow-up.
  10. Warning: A Random Hook-Up can result in pregnancy. However, impulsive, unprotected sex with your true love (of the cellar floor kind) never does.
  11. Warning: Emotionless sex can result in the other person (usually a woman) trying to kill you right afterwards. That is never a commentary on your lovemaking.
  12. Random hook-ups, emotionless sex, and impulsive, unprotected true love sex do not result in STDs.
  13. Simultaneous orgasm is standard and typical.
  14. Remember, there’s nothing in the world better than “True Love” except a MLT sandwich where the mutton’s nice and lean…

movie-heartYour true love is out there – only a professional crisis, an impending zombie attack, and a cellar floor away.

Speculating Les Miserables Music

Les Miserables SymphonicFinished my unnecessary listening to the 5 soundtracks to Les Misérables that I own. They range from the standard Broadway cast recording to the only complete and full recording of the entire score.

As I enjoyed myself, I found a few things. Some of the songs do not hold up on repeat usage (I find “Turnings” to be a bit annoying and frankly “Castles on a Cloud” loses some charm with frequent listening). Some most definitely do (anything sung by Jean Valjean – regardless of the performer, “One More Day”, “Do You Hear the People Sing”).

I also recognized listening to the songs that I don’t actually know as many of the words as I think I do. Certainly on the songs with many parts overlapping, I am not sure of myself. But even some of the solos, I am a bit weak on my singing along abilities. I also knew that hearing these stupendous voices on the recordings were setting me up for disappointment. I adore Hugh Jackman, but he isn’t going to hit that high note at the end of “Who Am I?”

I couldn’t help but speculate which songs weren’t going to make it to the final version. The Complete Symphonic Recording is about 2:45. The movie musical is 2:37 and includes a brand new song (“Suddenly” sung by Valjean). Clearly stuff is going.

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The Silent Side Seat Watch

Previews. Reviews. Poster. Stars. Plot. Genre.

So many things that can help you decide if a movie is worth your time. But on airplanes, there is another category of movie decision-maker: The silent side seat watch.

We’ve been doing it for decades. A movie will show in the main cabin on overhead screens. You don’t plug in your headphones or watch it. But every now and then you look up and check out a few moments. For an unfamiliar movie, you have to supply your own explanation on the plot, characters, and dialogue. Sometimes you find yourself watching huge chunks of the movie even though you really don’t know whats going on. Often the more inscrutable, the more you watch. You almost NEVER take out you headphones because you are not watching the movie, of course. But when it is all over you have a decided review of the film from the silent chunks you observed.

Nowadays, there are even more options to silent side seat watch: Inflight entertainment at your seat, laptops, iPads all provide chances to follow along on someone else’s film – silently, occasionally, and perplexingly.

On a recent pair of long flights, I saw a big chunk of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. While I might eventually watch the film, there was nothing in this silent pseudo-historical slayer flick that drew me in despite watching the 16th president take out an occasional vampire. Perhaps hearing Abe talk – a man of excellent words – as he battles the undead will improve the film. Even The Godfather is likely unappealing for a first time viewer too if you lose the dialogue and plot.

Then I watched some scenes from Men in Black III. I’ve seen this film and thought it was lacking plot, dialogue, and interesting characters. So removing all those might improve the movie. But watching selected scenes again from spots in the movie, I was reminded of all the other things I really really didn’t like about it. Same thing with Rock of Ages. On my return flight that was on a seat ahead of me, right in my eye line. The silliness of the movies was only simplified without the singing – all overacting and costumes without the marginal covers of the rock hits.

I wonder if all movies fail in silent side seat watching. Some scenes from People Like Us with Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks looked dreadful. But the movie on has a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, so my brief watching may be accurate.

What films have you side seat watched? Did you think any of them were good? Good enough to watch regularly at  later date? Share in the comments.

Skyfall

Is James Bond still relevant? That’s the very obvious subtext of the newest Bond film Skyfall. Methodology, age, changing nature of villainy, and the rise of technology all imply that James Bond is no longer needed. For the filmmakers, they care less about making a statement on secret agents and more on secret agent movies. Can a Bond film still make money? Given the box office of  the film in England, they need not worry.

I fell in love with James Bond films as a kid growing up in the Roger Moore era. His Bond was a little older (Moore was already 46 when he made his 1st Bond, 56 when he made his last) with a bit more camp, goofy secret gadgets, and ridiculous villains I loved it as a kid. Then I came across Ian Fleming’s novels and read every one of them. By then, the Bonds were available on VHS and I immersed myself in Sean Connery’s tougher and sexier Bond with more original Fleming stories. (And there was that one good movie with George Lazenby)

The Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan eras did little for me. I was thrilled that reboot came with Daniel Craig and Casino Royale. The movie was really good, but not the best. But I thought Craig’s portrayal was the truest to the Fleming novels. The follow-up didn’t do much for me and has the worst name of any Bond film. At least Octopussy let us say something dirty without getting in trouble. Quantum of Solace was just someone showing off dictionary skills (even if Fleming originated it).

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Argo – No Spoilers

One of the joys of the movies is ignorance. Sometimes the less you know the better off you are. So this is a spoiler free (I hope) review of Argo. I won’t even use one of the great lines of the film that fits well into a blog just out of consideration for you.

Here’s 7 things to know (since there are 7 key people in…oh I say too much):

1. It’s based on a true story. But stop learning about the story and go in with a little knowledge as possible.

2. The 70s were full of drinking, chain smoking, ugly cars, big lapels, poor means of reaching people by phone, and grainy footage – all wonderfully recreated for the film.

3. Ben Affleck is not a stupendous director. But he makes eminently watchable, enjoyable, and tense films (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and this).

4. This was the best film I have seen so far in 2012 and is a lock for a Best Picture nomination. It might even win.

5. Alan Arkin is ridiculously great in this.

6. John Goodman and Bryan Cranston are pretty excellent too. But not Arkin-good.

7. The film is tense ALL THE TIME.

Go see it. It is fun, enjoyable, dramatic, original, and well-worth it. Plus there is a deluge of seemingly great films coming. Get a jump on it and go see Argo ahead of the rest.

The Master

What to make of The Master? I had been so looking forward to this (NOT) based Scientology (well, sort of) drama from a great director and some of the best actors in the game. Here’s what I walked away with:

Paul Thomas Anderson is a challenging director. He doesn’t take an easy path to his films, pushes you as a viewer, gets incredible performances out of everyone, and has no desire to make anything comfortable or ordinary.

The film has a compact story. Very little happens – and what happens isn’t of much substance. This isn’t a movie to find out how it ends. It essentially comes to a conclusion of little surprise and then the credits roll. Paul Thomas Anderson films dn’t typically stick to standard film arc or character development. If it wasn’t for the acting in some of these dialogue driven scenes, the film could easily have lost me. Film will surely be nominated for the Oscar in Picture, Writing, and Director. But The Master isn’t a masterpiece. It is about its parts. And the acting is chief among them.

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